BRAIN FOOD: Matters for the mind to chew on - Lord Alexander - If I had to start again ..

BRAIN FOOD: Matters for the mind to chew on - Lord Alexander - If I had to start again .. - My main career was as a barrister for 25 years and, if I had to start again, I would unhesitatingly follow the same course, hoping the profession would be as lucky

by LORD ALEXANDER, chairman of NatWest 1989-99
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

My main career was as a barrister for 25 years and, if I had to start again, I would unhesitatingly follow the same course, hoping the profession would be as lucky for me the second time around. The attractions of the Bar are its individuality, its high accountability and the fact you're only as good as your last case. It involves the art of persuasion through advocacy and representing people who need support at critical moments.

But I also had the good fortune to diversify. I had two-and-a-half years at the Takeover Panel, which had the attraction of holding the ring between warring parties and seeking fair play for shareholders. Then there was almost a decade in banking at the greatest time of change the industry has ever known when high-street banking ceased to be primarily about administration and became instead an exciting aspect of retailing.

If I were starting out now as a banker, I wouldn't want to be a trader - their activities don't contribute enough to the real economy. Nor would I wish to be an investment banker, as so much of their work is driven by hunger for deals and the fees they bring, rather than the long-term good of the economy. By contrast, structured finance or venture capital would be thoroughly satisfying. There are enough mental challenges and it is the sort of banking that acts as a dynamo for the development of small and medium businesses. I could have a really stimulating career in those areas, but all in all, I still think the Bar has the edge.

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